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The Origins of Super Mario Bros. 2

Updated on December 21, 2012
SMB2 Title Screen
SMB2 Title Screen | Source

Many people have noticed how strange Super Mario Bros 2 is when compared to its predecessor and successor (SMB 1 & 3). The gameplay, stage layouts, enemies, and playable characters of SMB2 are completely overhauled compared to the original. Here are a few reasons why SMB2 was such a strange and mysterious sequel...

SMB2 box art
SMB2 box art | Source

The Strange Story of SMB2

It was initially believed that SMB2 was a dreamworld called Subcon, which resides in Mario's subconscious. Many gamers claim Subcon is actually a collective subconsciousness of Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants. Subcon Fairies are a peaceful fairy-folk that reside in the Subcon dreamworld. They are the guardians that protect the dream world, but they fall under a curse in SMB2 by a villainous toad named Wart.

Wart created monsters with his "Nightmare Machine", and sent his evil army to occupy the Subcon dreamworld. He succeeded in taking over the dreamworld and became the king of Subcon. Mario receives a message in his dreams to rescue Subcon. Mario disregards the message upon awakening, and then has a picnic with Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool. While on the picnic, Mario finds a hidden door into the Subcon dreamworld. He gathers his friends and embarks on a mission to free Subcon from the evil Wart.

Doki Doki Panic box art
Doki Doki Panic box art | Source

Origins of Super Mario 2

Few people know that SMB2 was actually a modded version of a Japanese title called "Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panikku," or simply "Doki Doki Panic." The original SMB2 was deemed to be difficult and very similar to the original Super Mario Bros, and was never released in the U.S for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Instead, "Doki Doki Panic" was modded with different characters and items and released as a Mario-themed title.

Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess replaced the original Doki Doki Panic characters. Mario replaced Imanjin - the average skilled character. Luigi replaced Mama - the high leaping character. Toad replaced Papa - the strong character who can lift objects quickly. And lastly the Princess replaced Lina who can jump and float in mid-air.

Items changed between Doki and SMB2 as well. The magic lamp that revealed a secret door into "Subspace" was changed to a red potion in SMB2. The bonus heart was changed to the more familiar mushroom. The extra life was originally depicted as Doki character icons, but became a red-capped mushroom labeled "1-Up." A few more tweaks were done to the veggies that can be thrown, tufts of grass, movable blocks, and exit gate.

A life gauge was also carried over from Doki Doki Panic. Obtaining a floating heart refills a lost heart on the life gauge, while a mushroom adds an extra heart. A mushroom also refills the entire life gauge. Mushrooms can only be found by using a red potion which reveals a secret door into Subspace. Time is limited while the player is within Subspace. Quickly pick up the mushroom and coins before Subspace time expires. Time expiration sends the player back through the hidden door.

The enemies and stages remained largely unchanged, but a few boss battles were swapped with different stages.

Mario holding a red potion that reveals a hidden door,
Mario holding a red potion that reveals a hidden door, | Source

Super Mario 2 Gameplay

The days of stomping Goombas are long gone in Super Mario Bros 2. The player can no longer jump on enemies to defeat them. In SMB2, the player has to jump on top of an enemy and proceed to pick it up. The enemy could then be thrown at other enemies, into pitfalls, or at environmental hazards. The enemy will continue to wander around unless it makes contact with one of the above.

Players can also dig through sand, ride flying carpets, slide on ice, and interact with many other things within the environment. Ascending vertically through the stages was also a new change.

"B-Button run" are was also added to SMB2. Holding the B-Button allowed the player to run and subsequently jump further.


Coins in Super Mario 2

The coins in SMB2 are much more rare than the coins in other Mario adventures. Coins in SMB2 resembled SMB1 coins, which are yellow with a "1" marking on them. The big difference is that a potion is needed in SMB2 to reveal the coins. The red colored potions are disguised as ordinary vegetable tufts, and are not revealed until a certain tuft is plucked from the ground. Once the potion is picked up by the player it can be dropped, and a hidden door will be revealed. The player can then walk through the door and into a dark world referred to as "Subspace." Any vegetable tufts visible in Subspace can be plucked and coins will be awarded to the player. Mushrooms are also in Subspace, and add a heart onto the life gauge. Mushrooms will also recharge the life gauge.

The coins can be used at the end of each stage in a mini-game that resembles a slot machine. Each coin is worth one spin, and the player can win extra lives by aligning symbols on the slot reels. The max payout for one spin is 5 extra lives.

Animations in Super Mario 2

In Doki Doki Panic, not many items were animated. For example, there are no animation frames for cherries, POW Blocks, vines, grass, crystal balls, bombs, water, cloud platforms, and spikes. All of the above had been spiffed up with flashy animations in SMB2.

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    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Agreed! It wasn't until later in life did I realize how some game were related in terms of story lines, characters, etc. It always sparks me to pick up the older games and give them a play through again.

    • shin_rocka04 profile image

      shin_rocka04 5 years ago from Maryland

      It's pretty cool how certain games become games out of other titles. I remember getting this game at an armory around 19 years ago. What a fun game this was to play.

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I believe "SMB: The Lost Levels" was supposed to be SMB2, but had the exact same engine and gameplay as SMB1. The developers thought sales wouldn't do well in western countries unless the whole game was revamped. Apparently, "Doki Doki Panic" was easy to modify into a Mario game. Also, the creator for SMB1 was not very active in SMB2, which led to the game straying away from original gameplay and storylines. It sounds like Nintendo simply got lucky by winging it and going in a very different direction.

    • mobias profile image

      mobias 5 years ago from Forest Grove, OR

      Nice Hub, I'm still wondering though, WHY did they sub that specific game into the SMB universe? It still seems such an odd choice! That was the first game they picked up- 'Doki Doki Panic'? I remember my buddy and I playing this, and I remember how hard and random some of the level design was.

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thank you, ndemarco! I enjoyed SMB3 as a kid, but it was always too difficult for me...especially the "Dark" stages towards the end of the game. SMB2 has such a fun and easygoing feel.

    • ndemarco profile image

      Nick DeMarco 5 years ago from Jessup, PA

      A very interesting read! I had heard of some of the things you mentioned, but I can recall when I first heard of it being on the fence as to whether it was true or not. I was one of those "weird" kids who preferred this SMB over the 3rd one that everyone seemed to love. Well done!

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thank you much! I never understood the storyline as a kid. I didn't care for it back then, but now it is on my Top 3 list of SMB games. A great twist on the original.

    • flagostomos profile image

      flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

      I love finding out how things like this that I loved from my childhood actually have weird origins. I have heard the SMB2 story before but you brought out a few story background things I didn't know. Voted up and interesting!